Atal Tunnel, the highest tunnel in India at an elevation of 10,000 feet was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi earlier this year. Soon after the tunnel was opened to the general public, hundreds of tourists converged to click pictures and enjoy the ambience. Himachal Pradesh Police have arrested seven people and have seized three cars from the tourists after they stopped their vehicles in the middle of the tunnel to click pictures, dance and record videos. The videos of the incident became viral on the Internet.
The videos of the tourists creating a traffic jam reached Himachal Police cell after which they investigated the matter. As many as seven tourists have arrested for creating nuisance inside Atal Tunnel, which is a major highway. The police have also seized three cars. Several vehicles stopped midway and started dancing after playing loud music in their vehicles. This caused a long traffic jam and inconvenience to the commuters. The police are still investigating the matter and more people will get arrested soon.
Stopping inside the Atal Tunnel is banned and is illegal. However, there are many tourists who park their vehicles inside the tunnel to make videos and click pictures. It is a 9.02 km long tunnel which connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti. It is an all-weather road and gives access to the people living in the Lahaul-Spiti Valley. Before the tunnel, the valley used to remain cut-off during the winter season due to heavy snowfall in Rohtang La.
Not the first incident
Soon after authorities allowed the general public to use the tunnel, several accidents happened inside it. People drove at high speed and tried to overtake other vehicles, causing a lot of accidents. The speed limit inside the tunnel is 80km/h and cops started using speed traps to issue challans too. There are several teams of police that patrol the tunnel for such nuisances.
Also, the District Magistrate of Kullu – Dr Richa Verma imposed new restrictions around the tunnel. Due to the increased tourist activity, the DM banned any kind of videography or photography 200 metres around the tunnel at the South Portal. Anyone violating the rule is issued a fine. Also, videography inside the tunnel is banned.
On the other side of the tunnel – the South Portal, several videos show tourists creating a ruckus on the middle of the road. There are many reports that claim that the tourists have also destroyed properties of the locals in Sissu, Lahaul.
The 9.02 km long Atal Tunnel is located at 10,000 feet above the mean sea level. It reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by about 46 kilometres or about 5 hours. It also helps with the army mobilisation and creates an all-weather road. However, there are several passes between Sissu and Leh that remain shut during the winters due to heavy snowfall.
The tunnel can handle more than 3,000 light vehicles and 1,500 heavy vehicles like trucks and buses every day. There are state-of-the-art electromechanical systems inside the tunnel to ensure the safety of the motorists. There are a semi-transverse ventilation system, an air quality monitoring system and several CCTV units installed inside. Also, public phones are available every few hundred metres while 4G antennas and repeaters ensure that the mobile phones do not lose connectivity inside the tunnel.